By Blake Schuster
A week ago the Jayhawks were cruising at 32,000 feet, riding a 5-2 record, celebrating on a Southwest flight from Mississippi to Kansas by helping the stewards’ pass out snacks to fellow travelers.
This weekend, they scurried home from the UTSA Classic looking to recover from a three-game shelling that dropped Kansas to 5-5.
Sophomore pitcher Frank Duncan was torn apart in a five-hit, four-run first inning on Friday night against the UTSA Roadrunners, putting Kansas in a hole to start out the tournament.
Duncan recovered to throw five more scoreless innings, but it was clear UTSA figured out his fastball.
“They were on time with his fastball,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said. “Without question, he didn’t spin the ball as good as he normally does.”
The Jayhawks would go on to lose 7-4, and Kansas’ pitching continued to tumble.
Freshman pitcher Wes Benjamin only tossed 4.1 innings, giving up five earned runs in an 8-6 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. He was followed up by Thomas Taylor, who lasted 5.1 innings with 10 hits and five earned runs in the weekend finale against Gonzaga. The Jayhawks lost to the Bulldogs 7-2.
In three games, Kansas starting pitchers gave up 14 runs on 24 hits, and no pitcher made it past the sixth inning.
“In all three games, they attacked the fastball,” Thomas Taylor said. “They all got after us early.”
Last week the Jayhawk batters emphasized efficiency with breaking balls in practice, but now it seems Kansas’ pitchers will be doing the same this week.
The batters had a week to practice hitting off-speed pitches, but the pitchers have fewer than 48 hours before their home opener against North Dakota.
Even though this could be seen as a setback, Price welcomed the opportunity for his arms to get back into competition and to try to fix the issue.
“I think that is the biggest positive of the week; that we are playing five times,” Price said. “The more you play, the better you get.”
As a veteran, Thomas Taylor is already looking at ways to keep batters on edge while he is on the mound.
“We need to mix it up a little bit earlier,” Taylor said “Go with the slider a little more often instead of just going after them with the fastball.”
-Edited by C.J. Matson